Freezing the Dough: Can I do it?

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Yes, you can, just wrap it very well or seal it in airtight containers, anytime after the initial rise. Defrost overnight in the fridge when ready to use, then shape, rest, and bake as usual.  How long to freeze is a bit controversial — our dough loses a bit of rising power over time in the freezer, and that’s especially true for enriched doughs like challah and brioche.  Our testers were happy with lean dough frozen for four weeks (dough made without eggs, butter, or oil). For enriched doughs, we’d recommend shorter frozen storage times: challah, three weeks, and for brioche, two weeks. There’s no need to increase the yeast or make any other changes to dough that will be frozen.

This can be very handy when you don’t use up the entire batch before it reaches the end of its storage life in the refrigerator.

Same recommendations for our gluten-free doughs…

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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40 thoughts on “Freezing the Dough: Can I do it?

  1. Re: freezing brioche for pizzas
    I have made the dough, it’s in the refrigerator and now I would like to divide and give a ball of pizza dough to some of my friends. Should I expect a problem? Or can I just divide the dough into ‘grapefruit or orange’ size balls and then keep cold until I give to them? Thanks for your reply!

    • Ok I get that you can freeze pizza dough by putting up a portion in a “flat ball” and wrap individually – but how would you freeze the “big blob” of dough? I have been baking my breads (all the dough over a day or two) and freezing the baked loaves – then it is just thaw and eat and no rising or baking needed. So far so good (it doesn’t stay long in the freezer)

      • Thanks Jeff – I usually use a vacuum sealer – but that won’t work for dough right? OR . . could I freeze the dough first – then package it and vacuum seal it? I think I can.

        So – when freeze (and then want to to use the dough) – then I take it out – do I thaw in the frig first – then shape and proof or what?

        I am so sorry to be so confused. Your help is greatly appreciated.

      • Dee: haven’t tried it, but can’t see why you shouldn’t be able to use the vacuum sealer. You mean just a plastic bagging system that excludes air, I assume. With any frozen dough, move to the refrigerator overnight and next day, just take out, shape and rest as usual at room temperature.

    • I would like to store my dough in a non-plastic container. Is there any possible recommendation for this? I was not even able to find a 6 quart BPA free plastic container.

      • Hi Kimberly,

        You can use any container that will hold about 5 quarts of dough. I’ve used a soup pot to store dough and it worked wonderfully. You can also use a glass or ceramic bowl, you just don’t want to use a towel to cover the dough or it will stick. You can use a large plate or platter to cover the bowl.

        Thanks, Zoë

  2. We have a wine refrigerator that cools to a max of 39 degrees. Will that high of temperature work to store dough for the week?

    • Hi Jan,

      The dough will ferment faster at the higher temperature and may not last as long. It seems your wine refrigerator is only a degree or two off.

      Thanks, Zoë

  3. I tweaked your pumpkin pie brioche recipe from Hbin5 and make banana brioche crescent rolls. They were delicious, but now I have some leftover dough that I will have to use or freeze very soon.

    Can I shape them into crescents and then freeze them before baking?

  4. Love the Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls (page 187, Artisan Bread…)!

    I want to prepare them (into the individual rolls) and freeze. Then I’d like to prepare a patch in the evening (with the caramel topping on the bottom of the pan and the frozen rolls on top)and have them defrost during the night so they’re ready to bake in the morning.

    If I can do this, would I just put them in the fridge overnight? Would I need to bring them to room temperature in the morning before baking?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Stephanie,

      They will take overnight to defrost, and then they will need to rise at room temperature for about an hour before you bake them.

      Thanks, Zoë

  5. Hi Zoe and Jeff… I’ve loved Healthy Bread in 5 recipes… They’ve all come out fantastic, but different from your results. I use the vital gluten, but my dough has never has the elasticity you show, so I’ve never had to cut it. It simply breaks off when I scoop the desired amount out. The dough rises perfectly and all the loaves have been delicious.
    The other interesting difference is that my dough gets a fairly tough ‘crust’ to it while in the refrigerator. I leave the lid ajar and only seal it after 48 hours. My suspicion is that I have a vent in my refer that the dough container is near and that’s what is causing it… but I don’t have room anywhere else in my refer than that top shelf for the container. I’ve decided to try to put a damp paper towel over the dough from the first day on. It has happened with the master recipe in HBin5 as well as with recipe variations where I substitute other grains. Do you have a solution for the crusty top on the refer dough?

    • Hi Lis,

      When you cover the container, just rest the lid on top, but there should not be a visible crack on top. The container will be totally covered, but if the dough rises to the top it would easily push the top off, which provides enough space for the gas to escape.

      Your refrigerator may run on the cool side, which will make the dough tight and have less elasticity. If you leave the bucket on the counter for 10 minutes or so, you may see more of the stretch we are talking about.

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. Can we cook the bread part way and then freeze it? They sell partially cooked bread in the freezer at Costco which you take it out, let it sit for 15 minutes and then cook it for about 10 minutes. This is very convenient and storing partially cooked loaves is very easy. Will this work on this bread?

  7. I checked the FAQs but didn’t see this question….if I’ve defrosted frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator – do I need to use it the next day or can it stay in the frig for a couple of days longer before baking. Thank you – and not only for the books, but for staying engaged with all of us and answering our questions quickly and kindly!

    • Hi Sally,

      It depends when you froze the dough. If the dough was at the end of its storage life (in most cases 14 days), then you will want to use it soon after defrosting. If you froze it mid way in its life, then you have more time after defrosting. The longer you wait, the less structure the dough will have, and you may want to use it in a flatbread recipe.

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Zoe – It worked! I ended up having a rise time of about 4 hours : ) – two at room temp., two in my oven (with a bread rising temp.) – It was the Soft White from ABin5 and the loaf came out slightly compressed w a softer crust and a denser crumb, which made for easier slicing and perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches. I’m going to try to duplicate this again! But my next attempt is pizze – I bought the OO flour from King Arthur and am anxious to see the result!

      • Hi Sally,

        Great to hear. Are you starting from frozen dough when you let it rest for 4 hours, or had it been in the refrigerator over night?

        The 00 flour is wonderful, but requires a different recipe. Do you have our pizza book? There is a recipe in there for the 00 flour.

        Enjoy, Zoë

      • It had defrosted overnight, but I didn’t have time to use it that day (see my original question on freezing just above) and used it the next day. It rested for about 2 hours at room temp., with no noticeable rise and it was still cold to touch – so, since I was “experimenting” I used my oven’s bread-raising feature and let it go for another 2 hours and it rose nicely. Then cooked it. Perhaps if I hadn’t let it go for so long it might’ve less dense as it rose during baking? And yes – I have your pizze book – that’s where I saw the recommendation and info on the OO dough.

      • Hi Sally,

        Once the dough has defrosted, then you shape the loaf from the chilled dough and let it rest for the recommended time, maybe adding 15 to 20 minutes. Resting the loaf for 4 hours may actually result in over proofing, especially in an oven’s proofing setting, which tends to be warmer than room temperature. This may be why the bread came out denser than you’d like.

        Thanks and enjoy the pizza! Zoë

      • I didn’t explain it well I guess. I actually liked the denser texture for the grilled cheese and for slicing for these specific uses. So I’d like to try to duplicate it again to see if I can control it. I’ve made the Soft White before, the regular way and love the way it comes out, but was happy with this result as well!

  8. First – a big YEAH!!! I finally seemed to have the knack of rolling out the dough for pizze/pitz/naan, etc. The first couple of times – let’s not talk about it : ) But now….question – if I pre-bake the pizza dough – how long can it be frozen? I couldn’t find it in book or FAQ. Thanks!!!!

    • no clear answer, not trying to be funny, but the answer is “until it tastes weird to you.” Since there’s lots of surface area, that might mean 1 to 2 weeks max, but it all depends on how completely you can exclude air from the wrapping.

      • Jeff – that actually makes total sense! Thanks! BTW – I used the “OO” flour for the pizza dough and it did turn out perfect – one thing for anyone thinking about buying the King Arthur flour – I didn’t check on amounts and the one bag will do for one full pizza dough recipe with enough left over for probably 1/2 recipe – lesson – buy more flour! : )

  9. I would like to make half recipes but don’t know whether to reduce the amount of yeast or not. I have read different opinions, and one is that the yeast amount stays the same whether increasing or decreasing the recipe.
    Do I half the yeast amount or leave it? thanks for your help.

  10. Hi, I’ve tried freezing your dough several times and bad luck each time. The dough does not rise properly and the bread always comes out tough with a dense and gummy crust. The last time, I froze after about 1 day in the refrigerator. I baked one loaf per day experimenting. First, a short 45min rise and then right in the oven. Second, first rist of 1 hour, reshape and second rise of 1.5 hours hoping to get a little rise. Instead a little flat. Same results. Lastly, I baked the final two loafs using even longer rise times, but nothing worked.
    I am using SAF Instant Yeast (Red Label) by LeSaffre.
    I called both King Arthur and LeSaffre QA and both said freezing will kill the yeast. Only professionals have the right kind of freezing technology. They said freezing pizza dough is easier because it doesn’t need to rise as much, but forget about baguettes and artisan bread. Quite frustrated. I don’t want to freeze already baked bread as it takes up way too much room in freezer.

    • Susie: freezing may kill the yeast, but it doesn’t dissipate gas trapped in the dough, and that’s what we depend on when we freeze dough in our home freezers. As we say above, you lose some loft when you freeze, and for you, that’s a deal-breaker, sounds like it’s not to your taste. Generally, that’s not our preferred method for having dough ready to bake every day. Rather than freezing, why don’t you follow the method in our books– refrigerating the dough instead and breaking off pieces every day as you need it?

      One other thing, any chance you’re measuring differently than we do, see http://bit.ly/ruTXhZ for a video.

  11. Can I cut the master recipe in half? I would like to make smaller batches while I experiment with options. I am using the master recipe starting on page 53 in your Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book.

    Thanks for the advice!

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